800 Attend Vigil for the More Than 230 Hostages

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas

  • Share This Story

A girl listens to a speaker. CJN photo / Bob Jacob


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

Twenty-three days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, the Cleveland Jewish community came together for a vigil for the over 230 hostages taken during the attacks.

Organized by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, more than 800 people gathered at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland in Cleveland Heights. The photos and names of the hostages played on a projection screen as speakers offered support, prayers and told the stories of a number of the hostages who were taken.

“In the weeks since Hamas’ unprovoked attack in Israel, our local community as well as communities around the country have demonstrated an unwavering resolve to help Israel respond,” Dan Zelman, board chair of the Federation, told attendees in his welcoming remarks. “Together, we have shown our brothers and sisters in Israel that they are not alone in this fight and will never be alone. Together, we’re going to make sure that not one single hostage is forgotten or left behind. It is time to bring them home.”

The Federation previously brought the community together for a gathering Oct. 9, two days following the attacks to support one another and Israel, which was attended by over 2,000 people outside the Federation building in Beachwood.

Through the course of the vigil, prayers and words of support were shared by Rabbi Naphtali Burnstein of Young Israel of Greater Cleveland in Beachwood, who recited Tehillim; Pastor Steven Neptune of GateWay Church in Aurora and HarvestNet Ministries in Brooklyn Heights; and Rabbi Joshua Skoff of Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike.

Ella Caspi, the new community shlicha, shared the story of Agam Berger, a 20-year-old classmate of hers who was taken hostage. Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike spoke of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a 23-year-old American Israeli, who lost his friend and his arm as they tried to protect 20 others in a bomb shelter from grenades.

Rabbi Allison Vann of Suburban Temple-Kol Ami in Beachwood shared the story of Mia Schem, a 21-year-old French Israeli who appeared in an Oct. 16 video from Hamas in Gaza as she asked to be released.

Following the vigil, posters of the hostages were available as attendees were encouraged to hang them up wherever they would be visible. They were also given Shabbat candles and asked to think of the hostages on the posters each time they lit them.

The vigil opened with the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” led by Jordan Gorfinkel, a congregant of Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood, and concluded with “Hatikvah” as Micah Chupnick played the cello and Park Synagogue ritual director Gadi Galili sang.

Israeli community members, Anat Beck, Elle and Michael Beck, Noam Naveh, Gal Naveh, Yael Herooty, Kee Koch, Talie Weiss, Ezra Smith, Judith Gerblich and Gabi Kalir, took to the stage to recite the poem, “Counting,” by Noam Horev.

Beth Wain Brandon, campaign chair for the Federation’s annual Campaign for Jewish Needs, also shared a message of community solidarity. Before closing with “Hatikvah,” Mark Holz, chair of the Federation’s overseas connection committee, offered actionable steps attendees could take, including taking the posters and candles.

“Make sure that everyone knows that we demand their unconditional return, and make sure that everyone sees the face and the name of the hostages that are being held in Hamas’ terror,” Holz said. “We don’t want anyone to forget who they are.”

Learn More: Federation, Israel, Overseas